The Art of Yoga
by Tresca Weinstein
When Aja Blanc, a 2008 Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training graduate, started a new job as head of family and youth programs at the Rhode Island School of Design’s Museum of Art, she was reminded once again that her two careers have a surprising amount in common.
“There are so many parallels between the yoga experience and the museum experience,” Aja says. “Yoga is allowing people to have their own experience inside their bodies, and the same thing happens in front of a work of art. I can’t impose the experience on them—I can give them the tools to be present, to slow down, and to really take in this work of art and integrate it into themselves.”
This wasn’t the first time that Aja had discovered how well the Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training complemented her work in the museum world. She was so impressed by the evaluation process used during practice-teaching sessions at Kripalu that, after graduating, she incorporated elements of the process into the evaluations conducted at the Yale University Art Gallery, where she was working at the time.
“A big part of my job was training museum educators, and we struggled with making the evaluation process meaningful and helpful,” she recalls. “The evaluation process during the training, using ‘I’ statements and conscious language, was so helpful and established such a sense of community. I took the process and adapted it for museum educators, and it worked phenomenally.”
When Aja registered for the 200-hour Kripalu Yoga Teacher Training, she had never even set foot on the Kripalu campus. But taking classes with a Kripalu-certified teacher, reading about the Kripalu School of Yoga, and browsing the Kripalu website convinced her that it was the right place to get trained.
“I just knew it was going to be a good fit,” Aja says. “I had a sense that the way the Kripalu training was set up, not only would I leave with the skills to be a teacher, I would be really immersed in the Kripalu culture and in yogic living.”
Aja first tried yoga for stress relief in college and continued to take the occasional class during graduate school. When the stress of transitioning into the workplace after grad school got so bad that she developed Bell’s palsy, her doctor told her she needed to make some real changes. In response, Aja began practicing yoga in earnest, an exploration that led her to the Kripalu School of Yoga.
At the first meeting of her training—a monthlong in June 2008 led by teacher trainers Brahmani Liebman and Jashoda Edmunds—Aja discovered that her instincts about Kripalu and about the students the training would attract had been on the nose.
“We all sat in a circle, maybe 50 people, and wrote down three goals we had for ourselves and three things that would potentially hold us back,” she recalls. “I knew I was in the right place when not one person said their goal was to be able to do splits. They all talked about practicing and teaching yoga as a way to tap into consciousness and stillness. No one was talking about stretching their gams.”
The training offered Aja practical skills—ranging from anatomy to voice modulation to class planning—as well as immersion in what she describes as “a culture of communication, listening, and respect.” Intensive practice and study was balanced by evening concerts, nourishing meals, and self-care, she said.
“There was an incredible amount of information and work to be done, but also beautiful moments of reflection and pause throughout so everything could be integrated and incorporated into our awareness,” she says. “I never had a sense of overwhelm—I was always perfectly challenged. I left feeling very prepared to teach and, at the same time, a whole new world was opened up. I was given the skills at Kripalu to take it all with me and apply it in whatever way I need to—that’s the real heart of the training.”
Back home, Aja has stayed connected to Kripalu through the Kripalu Yoga Teachers Association (KYTA), which offers ongoing support to its members, including resource CDs, a quarterly newsletter, e-mail updates, marketing materials, and discounts on insurance and yoga products. “I’ve been given amazing resources to get my teaching started, get my website up, and keep my self-study going,” says Aja, who loves the fact that the KYTA staff are “actively, daily thinking about ways they can help Kripalu teachers out in the world do their work.” She also loves staying connected through the KYTA Community Forum, an online discussion group for yoga teachers and practitioners that delves into every aspect of running a yoga business, whether it’s teaching classes for specific populations, using environmentally friendly yoga products, or parsing the history and philosophy of yoga.
Aja’s life underwent some big changes in 2009: she got married, moved, and started a new job. Her Kripalu training, which she thinks of as a gift that keeps on giving, not only helped her to make those transitions smoothly but also provides her with inspiration and insight into her work as a museum educator. “A lot of the skills I learned at Kripalu will aid me in working with these audiences,” she says. “As a teacher, I’m always observing and listening to the students, whether I carry that into the museum or onto the mat.”
Tresca Weinstein is an editorial consultant for Kripalu and edits the Yoga Bulletin, a quarterly publication for KYTA members.
© Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. All rights reserved. Originally published in the Summer 2010 issue of the Kripalu catalog. To request permission to reprint, please e-mail email@example.com.